Riding in traffic vs. bike lanes

The whole riding on the sidewalk issue brings up a parallel line of discussion: Bike lanes or not?  Those who think cyclists must be treated as equals with motor vehicles maintain that bike lanes set up a divide between bikes and cars.  They think bicycles should ride in traffic, obey the rules of the road, and be given the same courtesies as motorists.

Those for bike lanes argue that bikes and cars are not the same, because of the difference in mass.  Many are probably less skilled riders.  In their view, bike lanes are common sense solutions to a potential hazard.

As seen in the previous post, I would have preferred to have a bike lane available, and did not opt to take what I thought was a risk of riding in traffic.

One problem with the bike lane or not issue seems to be the way urban planners and developers design new residential and commercial areas.  The north-south thorofare in my area has a bike lane for its entire length.  The speed limit for cars is 40 mph, on a four-lane divided road.  The main east-west road, the previously mentioned Slaughter Lane, has a bike lane for more than half the distance it travels across the city, but none in the last five miles or so on the west end.  Why?

The problem is compounded by a lack of east-west arteries in town.  Because so many suburban streets are built on curvy paths, there is often no parallel, less-traveled alternative to take.  For instance, for me to take an alternative route to Slaughter, I would have had to go a mile farther north, not just a block or two.

So I guess I’m all for bike lanes.  As bikes become a more common mode of transport, people will have to demand of their city officials more accommodation for bikes.


  1. says

    I’m all for bike lanes too…but I see them more as a benefit to the motorist rather than the cyclist. Legally we have every right to be on the road…taking up a lane. Unfortunately a lot of motorists don’t care and will pass extremely close or get irate because we’re not on the sidewalk or because we’re riding on an arterial road. Bike lanes aren’t always safer…I’ve gone into the right most lane many times to avoid a car pulling out of a driveway or just to put myself in a more visable area of the road. Drivers rarely look in bike lanes…just like sidewalks.

    Bike lanes are better than riding in a “car” lane. But until everyone learns to look for all traffic rather than just automobile traffic they’re not much safer than being in a normal lane. Bikes ARE traffic…we don’t have to ride in it…we are it :)

  2. says

    I am ambivalent in regards to bike lanes. If the road is wide enough for a bike lane it is easy enough to ride on the road. But as Jared points out it does, educate drivers. Which I think is probably one of the most important aspects to getting bicycles accepted on the roads.

    As far as being seen, just as a precaution I almost always where an orange vest when riding.

  3. says

    Being for or against bike lanes is a bad question to pose.
    What *kind* of bike lanes? Where?
    There are lots of bike lanes that were *not* designed particularly well.
    There are places where bike lanes make sense, design-wise, and places where they don’t. Most of my commute, they’re simply not necessary – and can be dangerously confusing at intersections or where they begin or end.
    Done poorly, bike lanes can “educate” drivers that “bikes don’t belong on roads without bike lanes.”

  4. says

    … oh, and it’s not really a vs. situation.

    If you’re on a bike lane, in a road – you are riding in traffic. You *are* traffic. It is an even worse mistake to have cyclists think that somehow that lane has a magic barrier that keeps cars from getting into them.

  5. says

    Living in the Portland Or./Vancouver Wa. area where there are miles of bike lanes, all I can say is they work great. The bike lanes keep bicyclist out of the way of many motorist who see bicyclist as an annoyance and help reduce the conflict between cars and cyclist.

    Regardless of your experience level, bike lanes make commuting and riding easier and safer. Bikes have a right to be on the road and I will exercise that right if I need to, but it is nice to have my own lane on the road.

    When I can pedal my bike at 40 m.p.h for my commute to work I will feel safer in the lane of traffic, but until then I will use the bike lane.

  6. says

    I’ve always thought of bike lanes as analagous to the ‘slower traffic stay right’ rule for cars. Or the rule that exists in many countries that requires trucks to only use the right lane (in right side drive countries) unless passing. It is theoretically safer, and helps traffic flow. It doesn’t mean there aren’t instances where cyclists need to take the lane, and it doesn’t mean there aren’t problems with bike lanes. But as Bob mentioned, they can work well if applied properly.

    Some folks want to take a polarizing approach, i.e. if we ‘accept’ the bike lane, we’ll be relegated to a traffic afterthough and ‘cars will win’. Personally, I don’t think that’s productive for cyclists, and as a cyclist I don’t want to be conscripted into that war.

  7. says

    Its not an either or. Some bike lanes are nice (and I like them)… some bike lanes are full of illegally parked cars. Still i like bike lanes, but know that they will never get a person to every area in town. Riding roads is a necessity. I don’t see riding on roads as a means to educate drivers…I see it as a means to get from one place to another. Many bike riders may provide reverse education because they don’t act like traffic. They act like recreational vehicles.

  8. chris says

    I try not to ride in bike lanes..due to the fact that motorists tend to cut you off or if there is someone who wants to make a left turn on a 2 lane road they go around them using the bike lane..which is very dangerous since they dont look. Bottom line..bike lanes are for bikes..not for cars. In many areas if your caught riding or driving in a bike lane for any reason at all..you can get a 100 dollar ticket..even if your parked in the bike lane. Its common sense..car drivers STAY OUT OF THE BIKE LANES!!

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